Virginia Tech’s Special Collections and University Archives owns as part of the William J. Heron Speculative Fiction Collection roughly 4,500 issues from over 200 titles of British, Australian, and primarily American pulp magazines, dating from the 1910s through the 1980s.
In honor of the upcoming Halloween holiday, let’s take a look at a lucky thirteen spooky, suspenseful, or otherwise spine-tingling covers to be found in the collection.
Cue Shatner’s voice over. Done. Ready to bring up the music. (Maybe we can hear it already.) “. . . where no man has gone before.” (Yes, he really did say that. It was 1966, after all.) On the 8th of September, a Thursday night, on NBC, and after Ron Ely had his premier appearance as Tarzan, William Shatner, an actor with 15 years experience in movies and television, including a turn in the Oscar-nominated Judgment at Nuremburg, said those first words, “Space, the final frontier” to a national audience. The voyages of the starship Enterprise began that evening with a broadcast of “The Man Trap,” even though it was the sixth show Gene Roddenberry and the folks at Desilu had produced. Reportedly, NBC made the decision to begin the show’s run with episode “number 6” because it had more action than did the other five available episodes. It also had a monster.
Among the new acquisitions at Special Collections is this final draft copy of “The Man Trap” signed by James Doohan, the actor who played “Scotty,” Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott. “Officer Scott” is listed among the cast members for the episode, though Scotty doesn’t actually appear in this episode, except as a disembodied voice heard over Kirk’s communicator. Apparently, the audio clip of Mr. Doohan’s brief lines were lifted from one of the other episodes already shot and inserted into this one. IMDB lists Doohan’s contribution to “The Man Trap” as “Scott (voice) (uncredited)!
If you don’t remember this particular episode or just need a reminder, this is the one in which Kirk, McCoy, and Darnell, a soon-to-be-deceased crewman, visit a planet to resupply and check in on an archaeological survey team working on what was thought to be an otherwise uninhabited world. The team consists of Robert Crater and his wife, Nancy, an old love of McCoy’s. We know something is up when Nancy appears differently to each member of the landing party. This note to the director from Gene Roddenberry suggests just how the change in appearance might be indicated. Crater tells Kirk that they only want salt tablets and, otherwise, to be left alone.
It turns out that “Nancy” isn’t really Nancy at all, but the shape-shifting last inhabitant of the planet, the last of a species that needs salt to survive. The planet, itself, is running out, and the creature will get the salt it needs wherever it can, from human beings, if necessary, even though doing so will kill them. Well, you can imagine what happens. Mayhem, death, regret, and resolve ensue. McCoy ends up having to kill the being, even as it changes one last time into the shape of his old flame, Nancy.
From such humble beginnings. . . . Shatner has become a caricature of himself (though not just that), some of James Doohan’s ashes were rocketed into space (a couple of times), and Star Trek has become one of the most successful entertainment franchises ever!!
Why did Special Collection acquire this script? Science Fiction, as part of the broader classification of Speculative Fiction, is one of our collecting areas. And, really, how could we resist!! Come see any of the 4500 issues of science fiction and fantasy magazines on hand that date from the late 1920s through the mid-1990s. Some of them are currently on display, along with a remembrance of John Glenn (we collect “non-fictional” science-related materials, too!), and James Doohan’s copy of his script of “The Man Trap” at Special Collections for the next few weeks in an exhibit titled, “Space . . . The Final Frontier.”
The last post to this blog about the William J. Heron Speculative Fiction Collection was in October 2013. As a fan of science fiction, I think that’s too long to go without exploring the treasure trove of early science fiction contained in the collection. The Heron Collection includes thousands of classic science fiction magazine issues from many of the best known pulp titles. While perusing the collection, I discovered Nebula Science Fiction [PN6120.95.S33 N42], the first Scottish science fiction magazine (and, as far as I can tell, the only Scottish science fiction magazine until Spectrum SF started its short life in 2000). Nebula originally caught my eye because of its title. I thought it might be associated with the Nebula Awards but that’s not the case. I was pleasantly surprised, however, to discover that an author I’m currently reading, Robert Silverberg, had his first story published in Nebula: “Gorgon Planet” was published in issue #7 in February 1954.
Nebula Science Fiction published a total of 41 issues from Autumn 1952 to August 1959. The magazine was published by Crownpoint Publications in Glasgow, Scotland and was subsidized by its editor, Peter Hamilton. It was published in the later part of the pulp magazine era which spanned from approximately the 1890’s through the early 1960’s. Pulp magazines gained their name from the quality of paper used to publish them. They were printed on paper made from wood-pulp which turns yellow and brittle more quickly than other types of paper. The magazines were not intended to last and collections like the Heron Collection are special partly because they preserve the history of early fiction magazines printed in this way. In Britain, Nebula was an important publication in the genre along with New Worlds and Science Fantasy. It included work from many authors who are well known today, including Robert Silverberg, John Brunner, A. Bertram Chandler, and Robert A. Heinlein.
Robert Silverberg contributed 7 stories to Nebula beginning in 1954. Silverberg has won multiple Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards, is a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, and was presented with the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award in 2004. His first published work, “Gorgon Planet”, appeared in Nebula Science Fiction #7 in February 1954. Other stories of his in Nebula include: “Always” (March 1956), “Solitary” (March 1958), “Godling Go Home” (April 1958), “The Fires Die Down” (June 1958), “Strong Waters” (January 1959), and “The World He Left Behind” (February 1959).
John Brunner had 6 stories in Nebula beginning in Spring 1953. Brunner also has won Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards. His best known works include Stand on Zanzibar, and The Sheep Look Up. His stories began appearing in Nebula with “Brain Power” in issue #2. His other Nebula stories are: “By the Name of Man” (July 1956), “Hope Deferred” (November 1956), “The Number of My Days” (December 1956), “Treason” (May 1957), and “The Hired Help” (February 1958).
A. Bertram Chandler was published 5 times in Nebula starting with “The Window” in issue #22 in July 1957. Chandler was the recipient of four Ditmar Awards from the Australian Science Fiction Foundation. In 1992, the Australian Science Fiction Foundation established the Chandler Awards, a juried award for Outstanding Achievement in Australian Science Fiction, in his honor. His four other works in Nebula are: “The Successors” (August 1957), “Artifact” (September 1957), “Motivation” (April 1958), and “Words and Music” (July 1958).
Robert A. Heinlein stories appeared in Nebula 3 times starting with “Ordeal in Space” in issue #9 in August 1954. Heinlein is a winner of the Locus award, multiple Hugo and Prometheus Hall of Fame awards, and was presented with the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award in 1975. He quoined the terms “grok”, “waldo”, and “speculative fiction” and popularized terms such as “TANSTAAFL” (there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch), “pay it forward” and “space marine”. In 2003, The Robert A. Heinlein Award was established to honor “outstanding published works in science fiction and technical writings to inspire the human exploration of space”. It is administered by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. Heinlein’s other two stories in Nebula are: “Rebellion on the Moon” (April 1955) and “Green Hills of Earth” (January 1956).
Coincidentally, I found mention of “the first SF I ever read” in a few places this year. The authors all happened to be about the same age, and all reading Gernsback publications with memorable Frank Paul covers. Paul, the primary illustrator of the first dedicated American SF magazine, is well known for his archetypal depiction of the alien machines from War of the Worlds. But the monolithic impression he made on Arthur C. Clarke is not so widely appreciated!
Arthur C. Clarke – Amazing Stories, November 1928
“The very first science-fiction magazine I ever saw had a cover by Frank Paul – and it is one of the most remarkable illustrations in the history of science fiction, as it appears to be a clear example of precognition on the part of the artist! I must have seen Amazing Stories for November 1928 about a year after it had been shipped across to England- so rumor has it, as ship’s “ballast”- and sold at Woolworth’s for 3p. How I used to haunt that once-famous store during my lunch hour, in search of issues of Amazing, Wonder, and Astounding, buried like jewels in the junk-pile of detective and western pulps! – Korshak, ed. From the Pen of Paul (Orlando: Shasta-Phoenix, 2009): 9.
Frederik Pohl – Amazing Stories Annual, 1927
“The name of the game that year was the Great Depression, but I didn’t know I was playing it. And at some point in that year of 1930 I came across a magazine named Science Wonder Stories Quarterly, with a picture of a scaly green monster on the cover [unfortunately not in our collection; how did that happen?!]. I opened it up. The irremediable virus entered my veins . . . That first issue of Science Wonder was heaven, but I didn’t realize that the fact that it was a magazine implied that there would be other issues for me to find. When another science fiction magazine came my way, a few months later, it was like Christmas. That was an old copy of the Amazing Stories Annual, provenance unknown. Given two examples, I was at last able to deduce the probability of more, and the general concept of “science-fiction magazines” became part of my life.” – Pohl, The Way the Future Was (New York: Del Rey, 1978): 2, 6.
Lester Del Rey – Science Wonder Quarterly, Fall 1929
“The Fall 1929 Science Wonder Quarterly has an unusually effective cover by Paul, showing three men in spacesuits, tethered by air lines to a rocket…This, incidentally, was the first science fiction magazine I ever read.” – Del Rey, The World of Science Fiction (New York: Garland, 1980): 50-51.
I had originally planned to write a bit about some of the magazines edited in the early 1940s by recently departed Fred Pohl. At 19, he managed to talk his way into the editorship of two publications: Super Science Stories and Astonishing Stories. Pohl instituted the first SF book review columns of any substance in these magazines, and published early work from the Futurians, that notable circle of young New York SF fans and writers including notables such as Pohl himself, Asimov, James Blish, Hannes Bok, Damon Knight, and Judith Merril. This work bridged the gap between the SF pulps and the more sophisticated magazines of the 1950s and beyond (in which Pohl also figured heavily as a writer and editor).
When I pulled a few numbers, I ran across yet another cover stamped by a used magazine store. I used to see plenty of post-1950 SF magazines, and never noticed any of these stamps, but they do seem show up on our pulps somewhat frequently:
As far as the used magazine stores go, there seem to be very few left standing. I have never laid eyes on one; by the time I was looking for old SF it was in used book stores, the sort that carried mostly trade paperbacks in western, romance, crime, and horror (i.e. the usual pulpy suspects).
My guess is that the used magazine stores probably started to fade out sometime in the 1950s, after the paperback (and the television) had begun to more fully displace periodicals as a vehicle for popular fiction. The fragility of the stock must have also been a limiting factor; the magazines were just not built to last. We can elevate these stamps into evidence of past patterns of popular readership. But the disappearance of a cheap outlet for a particular cultural product also makes me think about the need for nimble and active collecting, bringing to mind the great old quotation from Jeremy Belknap, founder of the Massachusetts Historical Society:
“There is nothing like having a good repository and keeping a good look out, not waiting at home for things to fall into the lap, but prowling about like a wolf for the prey.”
That is still the case for institutional collectors, whether you are hunting through an attic or a strip mall:
Over the course of a few years in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Virginia Tech Special Collections acquired the William J. Heron Collection of Speculative Fiction. The Heron collection includes approximately 5,000 issues of American, British, and Australian science fiction magazines. These magazines are notable not just for their content, but also have enduring appeal as cultural objects. Many early science fiction stories, especially magazine material from the 1940s and 1950s, have been variously reprinted, anthologized, expanded into book length, or otherwise modified for commercial re-use. So, seeing the original published setting of a story, or knowing that a given setting is not the first, provides a context for understanding its readership. And the cover art, which was usually original work, is always different and interesting in one way or another. As this is likely the first in an ongoing series of installments on science fiction magazines and their art and artists, the following images are all “firsts” from the great magazines, and all are from our collection. Of the four magazines represented here, both Astounding (which was retitled Analog in 1960) and Magazine of Fantasy (now know as Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction) are still in publication. Astounding/Analog has been in continuous publication for almost 100 years!
Amazing #1, April 1926, Experimenter Publishing (cover by Frank Paul)
Astounding #1, January 1930, Clayton Magazines (cover by H.W. Wessolowski, aka Wesso)
Magazine of Fantasy #1, Fall 1949, Mystery House (cover by Bill Stone)
Galaxy #1, October 1950, World Editions (cover by David Stone)